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NFL insider notes: Antonio Brown’s disturbing fall from grace a cause for concern, plus more from Week 17

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My initial reaction was to mutter a “Slap Shot” joke under my breath, with Antonio Brown choosing to end his season – and career for that matter – by ripping his clothes off like in the final scene of that classic 1970s movie as the Charlestown Chiefs are in the midst of an all-out brawl during their mythical Federal Hockey League title game. But then I caught myself.

There is nothing particularly funny in watching this individual, who has destroyed his own potential Hall of Fame career so many times — often due to the horrible way in which he is willing to treat certain individuals — put forth one last awkward cry for help in the most public way possible. Watching him storm from the sidelines, upset about being benched at a time when his finances are in poor shape and he is chasing more incentives, and begin a macabre dance of disrobing and chucking things into the stands before sauntering, shirtless, off the field and seemingly out of the stadium, is as jarring as it is sad.

No athlete could dream of his playing career ending that way. It wasn’t defiant or iconoclastic. It was sadly pathetic and continues a disturbing trend of behavior from someone who was once on a path to doing things only men like Jerry Rice had accomplished on a football field before. And one could argue that it was karma of sorts for the Bucs, who were willing to take on this object of score despite all of the allegations of sexual assault and abhorrent decisions, all in the name of chasing another Lombardi Trophy. You could say that they got what they had coming for welcoming him back after being caught using a fake vaccination card.

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All of that is fair. I wouldn’t disagree.

But it wouldn’t make the specter of this fall from grace, this plummet from someone who once seemed headed for a very different sort of history, any less jolting. For this to be his final act ever in an NFL uniform, in all likelihood, is perversely somewhat fitting but it doesn’t make it any less of a cause for serious concern about Brown’s awareness and faculties and mental health. A diagnosis of some sort would not excuse any of his many mistakes, but it might further explain them.

Tom Brady seemed genuinely concerned and worried for his teammate after the game. No one seemed particularly angry, at least in part because of how at risk this individual might be. He is clearly now beyond more chances in the NFL, but one hopes he is able to get another chance or two to turn his life around and make amends with those he has wronged and to find something else to provide whatever value playing football about as well as any wide receiver ever has to get him to this point. Ideally, this is the last time we hear about Antonio Brown and erratic behavior. And hopefully some member of the Bucs organization is a part of whatever turnaround is possible for him.

Dolphins‘ blowout loss deflating 

The Dolphins losing to the Titans would have been no crime.

Sure, it would have provided more evidence to those who say their seven-game winning streak was more the product of who they played than what the Dolphins had become. But playing a decent ball game and falling a little short would have kept attention on their second-half rally, and not their overall inability to get over the hump.

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Then they went out and got curb-stomped. And now it’s open season. And fair to wonder that, if owner Stephen Ross is hearing some of the same scuttlebutt many connected in NFL circles are about Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh being coveted by other organizations, might Ross opt to make his pitch as well? Ross has long been a primary member of the Harbaugh fan club, and if he were to ever consider a return to the NFL, it would be hard to see Ross not wanting to be part of that mix unless he had a full and complete belief that his franchise was on a road to glory under current management.

Seven straight wins can certainly get attention. But facing a playoff-bound team for the first time in a few months and having it go as horrifically as this game with the Titans did will give you plenty of pause. How about Tua Tagovailoa going 6-for-16 for 71 yards in the first half? How about giving up just short of 200 rushing yards to a team without its top running back? How about losing 34-3 to a team that completed just 13 passes?

One has to wonder if the 2022 schedule will be as kind to Miami as it has been in the second half of this season. And one has to wonder how close the Dolphins are to joining the NFL’s elite.

More insider notes from Week 17

  • The Raiders could have given up on their season several times. They have been through an emotional ringer in their first season playing in front of fans in Las Vegas, and they bowed up again Sunday and beat a physical and confident Colts team that was on quite a roll. I’ll admit I didn’t think they had it in them, especially when their early lead quickly wilted, but they have managed to stick their heads back up every time I thought this season was about to get away from them for good. And they saved their best win of the season for Week 17, at a time when not many thought they could. Especially with the latest blow coming in all-world tight end Darren Waller ending up on IR – after losing Henry Ruggs to a homicide DUI and head coach Jon Gruden to his offensive emails – I figured they would get run over by Jonathan Taylor and the Colts. And if you had told me Derek Carr was going to throw two picks I’d have said no way. But now a path to the playoffs remains very much in front of them.
  • This season cannot end quickly enough for the Jaguars. If they really are silly enough to force this Trent Baalke thing through the duration of their coaching search you have to wonder about the Khans ever getting it right.
  • The Eagles get Miles Sanders back for the playoffs and they are gonna be a tough out. The NFC isn’t nearly as top heavy as some would have you think.
  • The Ravens had adversity, for sure, with injuries and COVID issues, but losing five in a row, and four of them by a total of five points, isn’t good enough when you sit at 8-3. The Titans and Raiders had plenty of adversity as well. This team never felt as good as its record when it did reach the top seed in the AFC — before more injuries — and the most pivotal offseason in recent Ravens history awaits, with Lamar Jackson about to count about $23M against the cap, and no extension in sight, and this team needing major upgrades on the offensive and defensive lines.
  • FedEXField is a total joke. It’s literally disgusting. Reason number 500 why Washington should be under other ownership. Raw sewage and fans falling into players coming off the field. It would be shameful, if all were capable of shame.
  • Doesn’t it feel like the Broncos are on their fifth straight year of needing to try a new quarterback?



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The Mets Continue To Celebrate Their Elite Duo

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(Photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

 

The New York Mets and their fans should consider themselves lucky.

We have said it many times in this space, but the fact they were able to pair Max Scherzer with Jacob deGrom in the same rotation is incredibly impressive, and should be celebrated.

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The two pitchers have five Cy Young awards between them, and lots and lots of pitching knowledge and expertise to share.

When they are both healthy, there is little doubt they are the best one-two punch in MLB.

They have both been hurt a lot in 2022, particularly deGrom, but they are both healthy now and ready to make sure the Mets can return to the postseason.

New York is one of the best organizations in MLB, with a 73-39 record that only the Los Angeles Dodgers have been able to surpass.

 

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The Mets Aces Are Healthy And Dominating

Now that both Scherzer and deGrom are healthy and in a groove, they are in a position to challenge the Dodgers for the “best team in MLB” unofficial crown.

In fact, both teams are extremely likely to face each other in the playoffs, perhaps even the National League Championship Series.

Having deGrom and Scherzer pitch in three or four of those games would be huge.

The Mets posted a cool picture of the two aces having a chat.

They look like they are enjoying their conversation.

Hopefully, both can stay healthy for the remainder of the season and gift fans some of the most impressive stretch run and playoff performance we have seen in recent memory.

Mets fans are in for a real treat watching those two guys starting consecutive postseason games.

They hope they can deliver their first World Series title since 1986.

The post The Mets Continue To Celebrate Their Elite Duo appeared first on The Cold Wire.

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Steelers defense focused on getting back to team’s ‘standard’ after disappointing season

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for having exceptional defenses. Players like Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, Joe Greene and more have been shaking up offenses throughout the franchise’s history.

With each new generation of Steelers players, they strive to reach the level of those before them. Now it is guys like T.J. Watt, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Terrell Edmunds and Cameron Heyward who hope to be feared by offenses around the league.

Last season, the Steelers were 20th in points allowed and surrendered the most rushing yards in the league. For the first time since 2017, the Steelers were not in the top six for yards allowed, finding themselves in the 24th spot.

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It was not exactly the year the defense wanted to have, and this year the unit is focused on getting back to being a classic Steelers defense.

Defending Defensive Player of the Year Watt spoke about the expectations in Pittsburgh. 

“As a Pittsburgh Steeler defender, it’s just that much more important for us to take pride in everyone that came before us and uphold the fact that the standard is the standard. At the end of the day, when the back is against the wall, when it’s a two-minute drill, when the game is on the line, we want to be on the field,” Watt said (via NFL.com). “That’s the mentality we have to have to be a hard-nosed defense, and that’s why we’re here to build that type of tradition, that type of standard for the season.”

The defense last year was not where they wanted it to be, with Watt commenting on the “unacceptable” number of 100-yard rushers they allowed in 2021.

With such legends coming before them, there could be pressure on the players that could backfire. Heyward says he does not look at it as pressure, but what the team standard is.

“When you come to the Pittsburgh Steelers, you’re known for your defense. That wasn’t the case last year, so going forward it’s put up or shut up. If we’re going to win these games, it’s got to come down to us,” he said. “But that comes with the standard we are charged with upholding. It’s not pressure. It’s what’s expected.”

The Steelers are “based on defense,” new senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach Brian Flores said. 

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“Its roots and foundation is defense,” Flores said. “It’s stopping the run and rushing the passer and keeping the score down. Any outsider can look at that and, if you peel back the layers, that’s who the Steelers are and that’s who we want to be and what we want to be. But there’s a process to doing that.”

Teryl Austin, who was promoted coordinator after three seasons serving as senior defensive assistant/secondary coach, said he appreciates Flores giving an outsiders view as someone just getting to Pittsburgh.

The Steelers’ season was cut short after a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the wild-card round.



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Stat Proves What The White Sox Offense Is Lacking

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(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

 

The Chicago White Sox, against all odds, are playing .500 ball at the time.

They are 56-56, which is highly disappointing since they were widely expected to comfortably take the AL Central division like they did last year.

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Of course, unexpected circumstances have gotten in the way: injuries, slumps, demotions, a lack of action at the deadline, and other scenarios have undoubtedly affected the Sox.

The most interesting part is that they are still very much alive in the playoff race.

Before Friday, they are 3.5 games behind the division leaders, the Cleveland Guardians.

That is definitely not an insurmountable difference.

They will need to show some thump with the bat, though.

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“705 of the White Sox’s first 1,000 hits this year were singles. Most recent teams to finish a season with at least 70% of their hits being singles: 2018 Marlins (63-98), 2016 Marlins (79-82), 2015 Marlins (71-91), 2015 Braves (67-95). The Tigers also are on pace to join this list,” stats guru Jeremy Frank tweeted on Friday.

 

The White Sox Lineup Lacks Punch

As you can see, hitting mostly singles doesn’t exactly correlate with a lot of wins: all of the aforementioned teams were under .500.

The White Sox are currently at .500, but they won’t make the playoffs if they can’t show some slug.

At the moment, they rank 18th in MLB in slugging percentage, with a disappointing .386.

The almighty Sox, lauded as one of the best lineups of the last few years, are 25th in homers with just 98 so far.

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That’s definitely something they will need to change if they want to repeat as AL Central champs.

The Guardians and the Minnesota Twins, Chicago’s main competitors for a place in the postseason, are prepared to fight until the very end to be in October.

The post Stat Proves What The White Sox Offense Is Lacking appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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